Last time I left you with my experiments with lilacs. I was a little underwhelmed with it, I have to admit. I didn't care for the 'refreshing' lilac water, and the lilac sugar's taste is so mild that it just gets lost in whatever you bake or eat with it. However, if there's one thing I've learned, its that not everyone is going to like everything and if you fail (even if its only in your own eyes), just dust yourself off and try something different.
Next on my list is yucca. I have a large yucca next to my front porch, which my mother in law gave me just after I moved into this house 7 years ago. At the time I didn't even know that the spiky plant flowered, but a couple of years after planting it, one lone stalk came up and I remember thinking how pretty it was. Many years later I now have two flower stalks come up each year, loaded with pretty, bell shaped blossoms. Imagine my surprise when I read that the flowers on this plant are edible! I was so excited to try it out and could not wait for it to bloom this year.
Well, the time has arrived, and I spent the last couple of (super rainy) days outside picking blossoms and shaking insects off of them. Although I did find a few different species, there are two that really, really love my yucca, a small white moth and an even smaller black and red beetle. I brought my colander and a pair of scissors outside with me and cut off about 120 blossoms. Then I spent a good ten minutes shaking the colander and picking beetles and moths out, and I still had some stowaways. Apart from making sure you get as many bugs as possible out before you take them inside, also make sure that when you are picking flowers which are unblemished, freshly opened blossoms.
My adventures in yucca are much tastier than the lilac ones. Raw, the blossom tastes ok, a little meaty, with a bitter aftertaste. If you enjoy bitter greens, like dandelion, you would most likely enjoy these raw in a salad. After blanching, the flavor improves a bit, the aftertaste is still there, but only a little. After I got everything in the marinade I just could not wait, so I tried a little the next day. Really delicious! So good that I can't wait for the second bunch of buds to flower so I can make more! I got three small jars out of the recipe below, two for me and one for my mother in law. She's always interested in these weird things I do and I thought it would make a lovely gift for her if it turned out. I know she browses through my blog posts, but I don't think she actually reads all the way through, so it'll still be a surprise, even though I just told all of you!
One last thing before we get to the actual recipe - you absolutely have to try this on home made naan bread smothered in goat cheese. Its delightful!
This recipe makes about 3 small jars - or 2 medium ones.
As I mentioned before, even after 24 hours it's already pretty delicious. After the three days, store in the fridge. The oil will solidify in the cold, so take out an hour before serving.
Thanks for stopping by, feel free to comment if you tried to make this, if you have any other things that you make with yucca, or if you just have any questions.
Interested in foraging, cooking, baking, homesteading, or all things green? Follow me on Pinterest!
I have spent most of my adult life steering clear of politics, my eyes often glazing over as I listened to others discuss it. It didn't even matter what kind; Canadian, American, World, it all just bored me.
That is not to say that the world of politics is boring - far from it. That world seems rife with excesses in money, sexual exploits, and especially lies. That last one is really what kept me away from it for so long, very few politicians tell the truth, or even answer a direct question. I find it maddening.
With the rise and subsequent crowning of the messiah of the 'forgotten man', I am loathe to admit that I haven't missed a day watching CNN. If I'm awake, it's on my TV, even if I'm not really paying attention. I soak this drama up the same way some people devour the exploits of the Kardashians or the Real Housewives of [insert city here].
Mostly I feel like I'm watching a train wreck in slow motion - I really cannot believe that this is actually happening. Sometimes I watch, mouth agape, in sheer disbelief of what I have just witnessed/heard/read... sometimes all three at the same time. I often can't understand how anyone with a functioning brain stem thinks that this man, and what he clearly stands for, is fit to run a lemonade stand, much less an entire country.
Now that that's out of the way, I, like so many others, feel the need to weigh in on the Trump/NLF battle raging in the US right now. Why should you listen to my opinion? Why am I qualified to even give an opinion? Well, you don't have to read this, and I'm not really qualified for anything, but my opinion is mine, and that is why I have a blog called sonjarants. I do more cooking, baking, and reviewing than actual ranting on this site, but when I feel strongly about something, I need to let it out.
I'm going to start by saying that I was initially against Colin Kaepernick not standing during the US National Anthem. I take great pride in my country (I'm actually Canadian, in case you didn't know) and often actually well up when I hear my anthem. I feel a great respect for our anthem and our flag, because they represent the men and women who fought and continue to fight (in numerous ways), and those who gave their lives so that I can say and do pretty much anything I want. In other words, something as simple as a song and a piece of cloth represents so much more than I can articulate.
I felt (what feels like 100 years ago) that anyone, anyone who doesn't respect their country's flag and anthem, no matter the reason, was in the wrong. case closed.
It was Donald Trump himself who changed my mind.
I, unlike Trump, knew why Kaepernick was kneeling, but I thought that he could maybe find a different way to call attention to it. Racial inequality and police brutality are important issues which require attention, conversation, action. I hate to admit it, but I wasn't paying a whole lot of attention to it. It's going on in the States (not saying that we don't have our own racial issues here), it's involving a protest by an NFL player (I only watch football once a year), and, quite frankly, before January of this year, I didn't really keep on top of current events. I knew what was going on, knew I didn't approve, I moved on with my life.
Since this whole thing has blown up on CNN (I might have mentioned I'm slightly addicted), I've had the opportunity to learn more about it, to reflect upon the meaning behind it, and to change my view.
I realize now that by kneeling, Kaepernick isn't disrespecting those who fought for his freedoms - he is showing his outrage that those who are still suppressing him are the ones actually showing disrespect for all of those who fought and died so that he could take every advantage of them.
I hope I said that clearly enough: in the US right now, his freedoms as a human being are somehow different from mine in the eyes of the law, mainly because he is a black man and I am a white woman.
Your constitution is not mine, but I think that we all know the phrase "All men are created equal". Equal means equal. The same. Identical. Uniform. Alike. Parallel. I could go on with the synonyms, but I'm sure that anyone reading this will understand at least one of those terms. And since he, and those he is kneeling for, and many countless others are not being treated equally, two centuries after those words were penned, well, that isn't right, and should be protested.
Follow this link to hear Dale Hansen explain what's going on - he does a great job for those of you still on the fence on this issue.
President Donald J. Trump has more immediate issues that require his focus rather than picking a fight with the NFL over an issue he doesn't even understand. Like The disaster in Puerto Rico. Like DACA. Tax reform. Obamacare. Travel bans. Insane travel costs incurred by spendthrift cabinet members. Jared's emails. The Russia thing. Shall I go on? Because I could. The list seems almost endless. Perhaps right at the top I should have mentioned mending race relations or even calling Nazi white supremacists sons-of-bitches, instead of peaceful protestors.
I'm pretty sure there are numerous Americans (and people all over the world) who are just holding their breath, counting the days until this nightmare presidency is over so that they can start to finally pick up the pieces and try to heal their country.
Kaepernick was trying to do just that when he started to #TakeAKnee.
#45's sad legacy will be The Great Divider. He promised to Make America Great Again, but all he seems to be doing is tearing it apart for ratings.
Originally published on June 30th, 2015 on UnusuallyDelicious.
It's early June here in Southern Ontario and my Dwarf Lilac has just begun to bloom. My entire yard smells so wonderful. While I'm transforming my yard, every time the wind blows I get the lovely scent of lilac. Who knew they were edible? Not me. Nor anyone I've talked about eating lilacs to. Some even questioned whether they were toxic. Well, here's the lowdown on what I've found about ingesting lilacs:
Firstly, they're part of the olive family, so that's a good sign. As with all things, start slowly. You may have an allergy you have no idea about, and since many of us do not ingest flowers on a regular basis, it's always best to start out small. The best things to make with lilacs are syrup, infused water, sugar and scones. I'll write a series on the fragrant lilac and give you the how-to on all of the above, along with uses for each (although the scones may be self explanatory).
Recently, thanks in part to my addiction to Pinterest, I have discovered the fascinating world of foraging. Don't get me wrong, you will not see me bent over at the side of the road picking dandelion, but I do have quite a bit in the way of diversity when it comes to the 'weeds' in my yard. I have purslane, stinging nettle, lambs quarters, plantain, and of course dandelions growing all around my property. That's only what I've noticed and been able to name while perusing pins, boards, and websites dedicated to eating weeds. I have spend years bent over, killing my back and my hands pulling them from the earth and cursing them profusely.
This year I decided I'm going to go about my garden a little differently. Aside from the total makeover I have started in my backyard (you can watch the progress on my blog at sonjarants.weebly.com), I have decided to try out some of the recipes online with these wild foods and maybe try to make a few of my own. Not only the weeds, either. Quite a few of the flowers I grow are also edible, apparently. So that is where we will begin our journey together, with a flower.
I've always loved growing things. Flowers, fruit and veggies growing in my home or in my garden bring me great joy. I don't exactly have the greenest of thumbs, I've likely killed more plants than I've nurtured through an entire life cycle, but I still try because I love it and truly, there is nothing that compares to walking outside in the morning and popping a cherry tomato into your mouth as you pick and choose which herbs and vegetables will be a part of your morning meal, or choosing which strawberries are the ripest for your clafoutis.
I also thoroughly enjoy cooking and baking (the process and end result, but not the cleanup!), and thought that it would be a great idea to start up a hub page dedicated to cooking and baking with things that grow in and around my home. I'll try to keep it interesting. Let's face it: you probably don't need another 'best ever marinara' recipe. So I'll try to show you the interesting side of my garden and kitchen. I love to experiment, and I'm really excited that you're along for the ride.
Since most of the recipes I found online which use lilac as an ingredient don't actually call for the flower itself, but lilac sugar, that is the very first thing I decided to make with it. I'll have to make a whole lot, and pick and dry a whole lot of lilac blossoms in a short period of time because they really don't last very long, and I'd like to take advantage of it while I can. So to start, I picked a bunch of lilac branches and brought them inside, sat my butt down in front of the TV and started picking. This is no quick task. After about an hour and a half, I'd only picked about 4 branches clean and had about a cup and a half of blossoms. I decided that was more than enough for my first 'test' batch, so I washed and strained them, then placed on a layer on some paper towels to dry overnight. The next morning, I split the pile in half, so I could test two different methods of making the lilac sugar. Almost all of the recipes for lilac sugar I found online were vague on how to use the blossoms, fresh or dry? So I decided to try both methods and see which one, if any, is better.
I ended up losing one half of the batch because I thought I'd speed up the drying process and stick half in the toaster oven to dry them further. It didn't work. They browned almost instantly and the smell was no longer pleasant. So I just used the fresh ones dried overnight and the result was underwhelming to say the least. The sugar absorbed liquid from the blossoms and smelled kinda weird.
However, I left the lid off for a couple of days and continued to shake, and the scent began to correct itself, as the sugar slowly dried. After two days, I ran it through a fine mesh strainer, not an easy task, I might add, but with the now brown flowers removed and the sugar drying out, I can smell the pleasant lilac fragrance coming through, and I can't wait to use this in my first recipe.
Take three. I picked a new batch of blossoms and this time removed as much of the green bits as possible, washed them, and placed on a tray lined with paper towels on top of the fridge to dry out for a few days. Aaaand... Success!
This can be used in recipes like cupcakes, frosting, and scones. I'll post recipes as I make them. You can also decorate some small mason jars with ribbon, fill with sugar and give as gifts. I thought of this as I was closing up the jars and will post pics when I make mine, as I am planning to give some as gifts this year for sure!
Unfortunately, I did not take any good pictures of my own lilac sugar (all the others are mine, and my dwarf lilac bush seems more pink than purple) before it was all dried out, so I found this one at honestcooking.com - click the link to go to their site - they have a recipe pretty much identical, but I think they used the blossoms fresh (I had better success with the dried ones). They do, however, have a link to a blueberry pie recipe which calls for lilac sugar which I will definitely try soon, so please do visit them.
Feel free to comment if you have any other great uses for lilac sugar or if you make yours differently.
Interested in foraging, cooking, baking, homesteading, or all things green? Follow me on Pinterest!
Originally published on July 31st, 2015 on UnusuallyDelicious.
Ever since I first started reading about edible weeds, I have to say that I am much more observant and careful when weeding my garden this year! Since the main garden patch has been allowed to go to weed as I re-engineer my garden this year (if you'd like to see my plan and progress, please visit my gardening blog Green-ishThumb) and pretty much all of my "crops" are in containers this year, let's just say that there is a tonne of weeds to pick! (*NOTE* Green-ishThumb will also eventually be moving here, so I'll update this link [hopefully] when that happens.)
I was out earlier this week trying to get a handle on the jungle out there when I spotted something that looked interesting. I don't recall seeing it before in my yard, so I didn't pull it and promptly got onto my Pinterest foraging board to try to identify whether this was one of the edible types. As luck would have it - it was! And yes, I checked, double checked, and then checked again to make sure there were no poisonous "look-alike" plants out there. If you're going to eat wild, especially if it's something you're unfamiliar with, always, always, triple check everything! Your safety and health is infinitely more important than trying out new things.
Medicinally, mallow can be used as an astringent, laxative, expellant, and anti-inflammatory. Here is a great site that gives you some idea of what the indigenous peoples such as the Cherokee, Iroquois, and Navajo used it for.
As for food, well, I can tell you that it tastes quite delicious sauteed (as I did for this recipe) with some onions and garlic. I did not try it raw (I probably should have), but according to all the sites I visited, it tastes good raw in a salad. Generally, you can use it in spinach's place in any type of dish.That is what gave me the idea for this take on spinach and feta burek. There's one more great site I'd like to mention, pennilessparenting.com, which is chock full of great information all about mallow, basics, photos, foraging, and some stuff to do with it.
You can also make actual marshmallows with them! The candy (or is it a confectionery?) was originally made from powdered mallow root, although it isn't any longer. Yet another way we've forsaken the mallow. Here is a site with a recipe using the root powder. I would like to actually plant some mallow next season and try to dry and grind the root myself. Mallow was on the list for my medicinal garden, but from what I've read it is not shade tolerant, so into the actual garden it will go!
I only had the one plant in the yard, sorry, I did not take a picture of it in situ. I pulled up the whole thing, did my best to shake any resident bugs off of it, and brought it inside for preparations to become a part of dinner. I did place the root in water, thinking maybe I can stick it back in the ground to see if it will regrow it's leaves. I also placed various types of stems, leaves, and other cuttings into a glass of water to see if I could get any of them to root. So far, one out of the three in the glass has keeled over and died. The other two are still okay. I will most likely let you know at a later time on Green-ish Thumb if I have any success with either method.
You may also be wondering what the heck 'burek' is. Well, its a Croatian dish that is basically butter, phyllo pastry, and a filling consisting of cheese, cheese and spinach, potatoes, ground meat or apples. You could put pretty much anything inside and it would be delicious, and you can eat it hot or cold, its just that good. Although you technically could put anything inside, the five fillings I mentioned are the ways that I grew up eating it. I don't have the patience to make my own phyllo pastry, so I do get the store bought ones that come in a box. You can find them in the freezer section in the general vicinity of the frozen bags of fruit. Traditionally, burek is rolled up, but I decided if I'm going to change it up, might as well change the shape also! If you'd like to see what a traditional burek recipe looks like, head over to likecroatia.com for a great traditional recipe.
Lastly, before we get to the recipe portion of our program, I'd like to give you a few pointers in regards to method. Firstly, please take the time to strain the cottage cheese. To do this, place cheese in some cheesecloth, which is in a strainer, and place it over a bowl for about 5 hours. This will allow all the excess moisture to drain out and you'll have a much drier cheese to work with. If you skip this step - I did because I saw the mallow too close to dinner time - you will not have as crisp a bottom as you should. Trust me, the crispiness of the pastry is part of the burek experience.You'll only see one egg in the picture... I made a mistake, again, rushing, and only added the one. You need that second egg, it makes a difference. Also, I used a glass dish with the interior measurements of 7-1/2 x 12" if that makes a difference to you.
Interested in foraging, cooking, baking, homesteading, or all things green? Follow me on Pinterest!
Since I am bringing a lot of posts over from my other two sites, I would appreciate it if you could let me know via comments or contact page if any of my links are incorrect or broken so I can fix them. Thanks!
I don't really know where to begin. I am a huge fan of the Dark Tower series. I, among legions of DT fans, have been clamoring for a Roland & Co. movie for what seems like ages. This movie feels like an insult.
Once the announcement was made that a movie was going to (finally) make it to the big screen, I scoured the internet for months, reading everything I could get my greedy little eyeballs on just to get a tidbit of information. I felt disappointment (and anger, at times), right from the beginning, and I wasn't even sure I was actually going to watch the movie. I was torn, fighting my internal struggle; should I go and see the movie to satisfy my curiosity? Or even wait until it comes out On Demand, which probably would have been a better option, because Hubby and I were both having a really, really difficult time not yelling out in frustration throughout most of the movie. Or, the third option of not seeing it at all, ever, but my curiosity wouldn't let me adhere to option three, I think.
I decided to go and see it in the theater last night. I went in trying really, really hard to keep an open mind, about the casting (you can read my feelings about the casting here), about the storyline (or lack of), about the damage that was being done to one of my most treasured stories. It was difficult, but I tried. After about 5 minutes (or was it 5 seconds?), I knew that was going to be impossible, I was already shaking my head in confusion and throwing my hands up in frustration. So I tried plan B... throw the book out of my mind and just try to watch it like a movie, one that is telling a story I don't know, like any other I watch for the first time.
So, here is my review of The Dark Tower:
My Synopsis? I really suck at them, which is why I gave you the one I googled. But I'll try.
A gunslinger reluctantly teams up with a young boy to fight some evil guy who is trying to kidnap said young boy to bring down a tower with mind laser beams.
My Review: You may have noticed (if you didn't know already) from my synopsis that I was not too impressed. To say that this movie is based on Stephen King's Dark Tower series is like saying the Family Guy TV Show is based on the Bible. That is to say that there are some characters who have the same name and perhaps a passing resemblance to someone in the book.
With that out of the way, I can say that if you haven't read the books, you may be a little confused. We don't get a whole lot of depth to the characters, therefore, we don't really care about them. We don't really understand just how important the tower is, and so we don't care if they're bringing it down. We really only get a sense of revenge from the gunslinger, so why should we care if he's successful in bringing down Walter? The movie is plodding, uninteresting and made me throw my hands up in frustration more than once. The acting and plotline is mediocre and this movie is a mess.
IMDb rating - I think this may be generous.
Rotten Tomatoes score - I agree with the critics.
The animosity I feel towards this movie will most likely boil over and I'll HAVE to write a post on how much the movie differs from the books, but how much, really can you fit into an hour and a half? For now, I'll have to be satisfied with the fact that the ending provided very little reason to make another one.
I give this movie 1 out of 5 movie passes.
Hi! I'm Sonja and I'm glad you're here! I'm happy to share some recipes and gardening tips with you while I let you know about great (or not so great) products, services, and media I encounter.
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